Something for the media to think about

October 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

A statement issued by Arundhati Roy after a mob of the Hindu right turned up outside her house and tried  to ransack her residence on 31st October 2010 in the full glare of TV. (See related posts here and here.)

A mob of about a hundred people arrived at my house at 11 this morning (Sunday October 31st 2010.) They broke through the gate and vandalized property. They shouted slogans against me for my views on Kashmir, and threatened to teach me a lesson. The OB Vans of NDTV, Times Now and News 24 were already in place ostensibly to cover the event live. TV reports say that the mob consisted largely of members of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha (Women’s wing). After they left, the police advised us to let them know if in future we saw any OB vans hanging around the neighborhood because they said that was an indication that a mob was on its way. In June this year, after a false report in the papers by Press Trust of India (PTI) two men on motorcycles tried to stone the windows of my home. They too were accompanied by TV cameramen.

What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media which positions itself at the ‘scene’ in advance have a guarantee that the attacks and demonstrations will be non-violent? What happens if there is criminal trespass (as there was today) or even something worse? Does the media then become accessory to the crime? This question is important, given that some TV channels and newspapers are in the process of brazenly inciting mob anger against me. In the race for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing news is becoming blurred. So what if a few people have to be sacrificed at the altar of TRP ratings? The Government has indicated that it does not intend to go ahead with the charges of sedition against me and the other speakers at a recent seminar on Azadi for Kashmir.

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Planting the Seeds

October 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

by Kathy Kelly

Nur Agha Akbari and his family live in Kabul, on an unpaved, pitted street lined by mud brick homes. When we visited him this week, his oldest son, age 13, led us to a sitting room inside their rented two-story apartment, furnished with simple mats and pillows. The youngster smiled shyly as he served us tea. Then his father entered the room.

Mr. Akbari is a robust, energetic, well educated man from a respected, academic Afghan family. In the late 1970s, Nur had gone to study agriculture in the UK and remained there, becoming an organic farmer. His four brothers had instead remained in Afghanistan, or else returned there after studies abroad. His two eldest brothers had trained in the Soviet Union – one as an engineer, one as a nuclear scientist – and had received early warning of the likelihood of what came to be the 1979 Soviet invasion. They spoke out publicly about their fears as the invasion grew more and more imminent.

On December 27 of that year, Soviet troops occupied major government, media and military buildings in Kabul, initiating a nine-year war between a nationalist/fundamentalist resistance (the “Mujahideen”) and the Soviet occupiers. Soviet officials fired Nur’s oldest brother from his cancer research work at Kabul University and blacklisted him. He found himself unable to work, and soon joined the resistance. Nur doesn’t know much about what happened to him then, but he was among thousands of people bulldozed into mass graves after capture and execution by the Soviets. All told Nur knows very little about the fates of his three older brothers, all killed in the war. But their tragedy would largely shape his life.

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Road to Hope convoy: We are stalled at Egyptian border

October 31, 2010 § 3 Comments

From a press release just issued by the Road to Hope convoy:

The Road to Hope humanitarian aid convoy continues its role in the international community’s collective mission to break the illegal siege of Gaza and deliver desperately needed aid to the people of Palestine in Gaza. The convoy has travelled four and a half thousand miles and is currently located at the Libyan/Egyptian border, where it finds itself at a standstill, with very limited access to internet and to direct communications with the outside world.

The convoy comprises 30 vehicles and 101 humanitarian aid workers.  Among them are 8 survivors of the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla; 7 of them were aboard the Mavi Marmara, including Ken O’Keefe, who was involved in disarming two Israeli commandos.

The Road to Hope convoy is committed to acting in a non-political, non-confrontational manner, and to cooperating with every government in every country through which it has travelled.  Thus far this approach has rewarded it with exceptional receptions in every nation.  All of the North African governments have been extremely accommodating, and the people of each nation even more so.  Special praise is due to the Libyan government for its constant support; when the convoy has faced challenges such as the breakdown of vehicles, the Libyan authorities have provided the means to repair those vehicles and continue the mission.

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Elections: The day after

October 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

by Robert Jensen

November 2 is going to be a big day in our political lives.

But November 3 will be far more important.

On mid-term Election Day, voters will choose between candidates with different positions on health-care insurance, withdrawal from Afghanistan, and CO2 levels that drive global warming. The politicians we send to the legislatures and executive offices will make — or avoid making — important decisions. Our votes matter.

But Election Day is far from the most important moment in our political lives. The radical changes necessary to produce a just and sustainable society are not on the table for politicians in the Republican or Democratic parties, which means we citizens have to commit to ongoing radical political activity after the election.

I use the term “radical” — which to some may sound extreme or even un-American — to mark the importance of talking bluntly about the problems we face. In a political arena in which Tea Partiers claim to defend freedom and centrist Democrats are called socialists, important concepts degenerate into slogans and slurs that confuse rather than clarify. By “radical,” I mean a politics that goes to the root to critique the systems of power that create the injustice in the world and an agenda that offers policy proposals that can change those systems.

In previous essays in this campaign series on economics, empire, and energy I argued that the conventional debates in electoral politics are diversionary because painful realties about those systems are unspeakable in the mainstream: capitalism produces obscene inequality, U.S. attempts to dominate the globe violate our deepest moral principles, and there are no safe and accessible energy sources to maintain the affluent lifestyles of the First World.

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Gracias Nestor

October 30, 2010 § 2 Comments

(Photo: Kurt Fernández)

by Kurt Fernández

At a cocktail party a few weeks ago, a young lady from Mississippi studying here in Buenos Aires asked: ”Where are the Padres?”

A good question. The Madres—the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo—are everywhere. With their signature white head kerchiefs, they are the mothers of youths who were tortured and killed by the terrorist military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 until 1983 and disappeared an estimated 30,000 people in Argentina. The fathers, however, have been largely invisible.

Except one: Nestor Kirchner, president of Argentina from 2003 to 2007, who passed away October 27.

Kirchner was too young, of course, to qualify as an actual father. In fact, as a youth he was a militant leftist and could easily have been disappeared himself. When he became president, 20 years after the restoration of democracy in Argentina, the dictators and their lackeys were leading the good life, protected by an amnesty. Kirchner pushed the government and the courts to shake off their laissez-faire treatment of the mass murderers who had set aside all concept of law and decency to destroy mostly young student and labor militant activists.

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“Is This Normal?”

October 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

by David Smith-Ferri

Editor’s Note: American peace activists Kathy Kelly, Jerica Arents and David Smith-Ferri are part of a 3 person delegation currently travelling in Afghanistan. Find more entries from their travelogues on PULSE.

In a small storage shed at the edge of town, we watched as fourteen-year-old Sayed Qarim signed a simple contract agreeing to borrow and repay a no-interest, 25,000 afghani loan (roughly $555). Daniel from the Zenda Company, the loan originator, counted out the crisp bills and handed them to Qarim, who smiled broadly and shook hands. Qarim, whose family farms potatoes and wheat, plans to use the funds to purchase a cow and her calf. “There are great benefits of owning a cow,” Qarim explains. “Our family gets to use the milk, and we can sell the calf for a good profit.”

No one walking by outside on the narrow dirt road would have known an important business transaction had just occurred, one that could in fact help a young man and his family gain economic traction and greater security. The transaction didn’t take place in a bank. No village leaders were present. Only a fourteen-year-old boy, the representative of a private business company, and a witness. And while the signed agreement constitutes a business relationship, the Zenda Company sees it as primarily personal.

Qarim was recommended for a loan by Faiz and Mohammad Jan, two other young men who live in his village and who have themselves recently received and repaid loans. Following this recommendation, Zenda spent much time getting to know Qarim, meeting with him, assessing his knowledge, his resources (such as access to grazing land), and his character, answering his questions, and describing to him his responsibilities as a borrower.

Now that the transaction is complete, Qarim is required to send a picture of the cow and her calf as “proof” that the money was used as agreed. In addition, Hakim, another Zenda Company representative living in Bamiyan, who is fluent in Dari, the local language, will visit Qarim periodically. Along with Faiz and Mohammad Jan, he will try to provide whatever support Qarim needs to succeed.

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Assange: ‘CNN should be ashamed…’

October 29, 2010 § 2 Comments

Julian Assange on Larry King Live, telling it like it is.

 

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